Cruel breaks at Bruff
In a game where the main talking point was a serious injury for David Bradford, Bangor and Bruff slogged out a 10-10 draw to keep them in contention in AIL Division 2C.
Despite the heavy rain showers during the morning, playing conditions at Kilballyowen Park were good, with bright sunshine and a slight breeze blowing across the pitch. With both sides sitting on the same points total in the league, this was always going to be a hard-fought contest to see who, if any, could break free of the tight mid-table contest.
Bruff got the game underway and from the outset Bangor looked eager to run the ball at their opponents. However both sides were guilty of making too many early mistakes, which blighted their attacking opportunities. Bangor enjoyed the better chances at this stage, but were let down by poor passing. This pressure, though, was pushing Bruff back into their own territory and eventually led to a penalty in front of the Bruff posts, but just outside their twenty two. Mark Widdowson stepped up and confidently struck the ball between the posts to put Bangor ahead by 0-3 after 9 minutes.
This lead was to be short-lived. Just 5 minutes had been added when Bruff were awarded a penalty which they kicked to touch on the left hand side. The lineout was cleanly taken and the ball was moved quickly across the backline. The Bangor defence reckoned they had their opposite numbers well covered, but a clever chip over their heads allowed the Bruff winger, Mark Cosgrove, to dash through, collect the ball and score in the right hand corner. The difficult conversion attempt by David O’Grady was well wide of the posts, but the home side had now moved ahead by 5-3.
The game stuttered for a while as both sides exchanged unfinished attacks, and any momentum gathered was lost through several stoppages. Unfortunately after 30 minutes, a collision in the middle of the pitch saw Bangor’s David Bradford suffer a badly broken leg. It is a credit to both sides that the medical attention he received on the pitch was excellent and, as he was stretchered off, every spectator applauded him for his fortitude in such difficult circumstances. At the time of writing, David is still in Limerick Hospital awaiting surgery, with the prospect of a lengthy period of rehabilitation back home. We wish David a full and speedy recovery, and look forward to seeing him back in Bangor colours as soon as possible. The lengthy stoppage had obviously affected both sides as neither was able to mount any further meaningful attacks before the half time whistle.
As the second half got underway, Bruff were making much better use of the slight wind advantage to kick for position. Their lineouts had been very good throughout the game and were also, on occasion, disrupting Bangor’s throw-ins. However, when it mattered, Bangor’s lineout was secure, but there were times when the good work in the set piece was undone by an unforced knock-on which simply handed the initiative back to their opponents. Despite putting themselves under unnecessary pressure like this, Bangor’s patience and hard graft saw them clear the danger and move play up field.
It took 26 minutes of the second half to pass before Bangor broke the deadlock. Having received the ball on the Bruff 10 metre line, Phil Broderick was weighing up his options as the Bruff defence lined up ahead of him. Having produced a neat step inside and wrong footed the Bruff winger, he found himself in space, with other Bangor players outside him. Once again he put on the gas and ran past the next defender leaving just the full back between him and the Bruff goal line. With growing confidence, he backed himself rather than risk the pass outside, and ran for the line and, despite the desperate attempts of the Bruff defender, he managed to crash over for an excellent solo try. The conversion from the left hand side of the posts was successfully kicked by Widdowson, putting Bangor ahead again by 5-10.
The game’s tempo stepped up at this point as the home side realised they were looking at a possible home defeat. As the tackles flew in, it was Bangor’s Ross McCloskey who received the only yellow card of the game for what was deemed by the referee to be a high tackle. With just over 10 minutes remaining at this stage, it looked like Bangor would have to ride out the remainder of the game with only 14 men. Bruff were now literally throwing themselves at every Bangor player and every loose ball in an attempt to win possession and exploit the difference in manpower. However, Bangor were just managing to hold their own, albeit pinned down in their own half for most of the time. As the clock ticked down, Bangor kept looking for the referee to signal the final play. However, whether it was this misplaced focus on the clock or a growing sense of panic, mistakes started to creep into their play as clearance kicks were charged down and unnecessarily rash passes were made when ball retention was key. McCloskey re-joined the game with just 1 minute to go. The Bruff attack was relentless and Bangor seemed unable to either get possession or force the ball into touch. It was therefore with a sense of inevitability that after a minute of overtime, the Bruff prop David Horan crashed over from close distance to score a try and level the sides at 10-10. The conversion was to be taken from just to the right of Bangor’s posts. On any other day, and with less pressure riding on it, this would have been a relatively straightforward kick. However, on this occasion O’Grady pulled his kick too much to the left and it drifted wide of the posts to the great relief of the Bangor players and supporters. As the final whistle came, both sides were left rueing their mistakes that had ultimately cost either side the victory. However, given the overall performance, a draw was perhaps a fair result, and keeps both sides in contention at the top end of the league table.
Thankfully, there is a week’s break for Bangor before they host high-flying league leaders Malahide in what promises to be an even tougher fixture. Bangor will also have to turn to their increasingly injury affected squad of players in order to assemble a side that can challenge Malahide effectively. There is no doubting the confidence and commitment of the senior squad, and perhaps this 2 week break will be just enough time to recover, re-group and come back with another solid performance.